The long and winding road that leads to your coast

The long and winding road that leads to your coast

Vinland, oh mythical Vinland, where are you? The most significant competition in North American archeology has been going on for centuries: finding the original site of Vinland, the landing site of Leif Erikson’s expedition in 1000.

Not L’anse aux Meadow!
National Geographic magazine thought it had found it a few years ago. But despite sophisticated satellite surveillance and hundreds of thousands of dollars, its best bet proved to be an abandoned farm from the 1930s.

And archaeologists know for sure that the Canadian Viking site L’anse aux Meadow on the island of Newfoundland is not where Erikson landed. Their work over the last 40 years has confirmed that women lived at L’anse aux Meadow and that pets were also present. This suggests that the site would have been a subsequent settlement location.

Recent carbon dating research has shown that it existed in the year 1021. Erikson’s journey 21 years earlier, when he ‘discovered’ Vinland, was solely to harvest timber for house construction in Greenland. The sagas tell us that 30 men followed him. No women, no animals.

Many theories abound about the exact location of Vinland, and the most respected Icelandic historian even claimed that the place would never be found! Magnus Magnusson stated that the Icelandic sagas are too vague and contrary to indicating an exact geographical location.

But what if a dedicated Dane has already cracked the case? I believe that the late Niels Vinding from Copenhagen determined the location of the Vinland landings in 1997. He wrote a book about it, but he died before he fully proved his case.

Fell over a boulder
My story is crazy when I pretty much fell into one of the biggest mysteries of the last 1000 years: where is Erikson’s Vinland?

I’m a Canadian interested in original rock art. Much of my work is discovering obscure inscriptions written in exotic writings on hidden cliffs in the Canadian desert.

That search led me to the wilds of Newfoundland to see an unusual Iberian inscription near the only known Viking site in Canada. During that exploration in 2011, I was told by the head of archeology at the local university about a newly discovered inscription stone in southern Newfoundland with what appeared to be several Viking runic inscriptions.

I traveled to see them and was impressed with their age and the skills needed to carve them into a granite stone. The layer covering parts of the manuscript spoke of hundreds of years of exposure.

A Canadian Viking rune expert I consulted claimed to be able to read what was a vague statement about ice and cold and to be stuck there in the winter. But the owner of the stone claimed that her daughter had carved them when she was a teenager. I doubted a teenager’s wisdom to know Viking runes and saw the tenacity to perform such a skilled job.

I shared the photos with Lisbeth Imer from the National Museum, and she claimed they were newer. I later discovered that the stone had been known for at least a hundred years before, but at some point was removed from its original location. I was fascinated by the inconsistencies in the stories and started a broader search.

The long and winding road that leads to your coast
We can definitely see “Yeti”. Told you Bigfoot was one thing

On the same track
I was amazed to discover that Niels Vinding, the Dane at the heart of this story, had come to the same port to search for Vinland. He was looking for discarded ballast stones after learning the location of a Canadian writer who had theorized that this was the most logical place for Erikson to be landed. In his book ‘West Viking’, the well-known Canadian author Farley Mowat observed that discarded ballast stones would be the clue to finding the original Vinland.

Thus, Vinding traveled to Canada and spent the summers of 1997 and 1998 searching for unique and suspicious rocks at Bellevue Beach on Trinity Bay. And he found some! The geological department of the local university identified the rocks as columnar basalt, but of unknown origin – certainly not Canadian. No one seemed to care to push this mystery forward. In 1998, Niels published his discoveries in a book, ‘The Viking Discovery of America, 985 to 1008: The Greenland Norse And Their Voyages to Newfoundland’, shortly before he died of cancer. The book was first translated into English in 2006.

On guard against self-interest
Now I love a good mystery and it all seemed very logical. Viking runes – check; ballast stone – check; a well thought out theory – check; a suitable beach location – check.

But why was no one in Newfoundland interested in pursuing this fascinating story? I finally realized that the government has spent millions of dollars building a replica viking longhouse and interpretation center at L’anse aux Meadow and was not keen on getting some amateurs to change the paradigm. Yes, for sure, L’anse aux Meadow is still an excellent Viking site, but not what it was originally claimed to be!

Since I am not an academic and had no reputation to protect, I jumped into this story and have been working on it for eleven years from all possible angles. All of the site specifications that Erikson described can be found at Bellevue Beach. It is a beautiful fjord-like environment with a large sandy beach – more beautiful than the barren rocky coast at the today known Viking site. Like many archeological finds, it hides in common sight! It is in a public park that is now overgrown with trees and bushes.

The long and winding road that leads to your coast
One of the ballast stones found by Vinding

Obtaining the stone
In 2014, I traveled to the port for the second time and convinced the owner of one of the ballast stones Vinding found to let me get a sample for analysis.

He committed it and I was able to get it analyzed by a high-tech lab through a process called ‘Spectrographic Analysis’. Using nuclear furnaces that burn the stone at impossible temperatures, the gases driven by are analyzed and recorded. The easy explanation is that it’s like making the DNA at a crime scene.

The problem is that I then had to find the source location of the stone to get a sample for comparison. When I knew that Erikson had originally come from Iceland, I reckoned that the columnar basalt ballast stones were from there. After all, the main cathedral in Reykjavik is built to look like a pillar basalt. I got a sample from Breidafjordur Bay, where Erikson lived before he moved to Greenland, but with the naked eye, the inner color was obviously different.

After struggling to make that theory work, I shifted my focus to Greenland. It would make sense as this was where Erikson lived with his father Erik the Red on what was called Ericksfjord (now Tunulliarfik Fjord). He sailed from there in a crunch that he had bought from Bjarni Herjolfsson, another Icelander. Herjolfsson was the first to see a mysterious wooded island west of Greenland after being blown there during a big storm.

Mining of the truth
My research started by scanning tourist images from Greenland on Google Images. I saw similar suspicious square boulders in a Viking church ruin called the Hvalsey Church, dating to 1000 AD.

To expand the visual search, I found a copy of Viking stones and turf at a museum in the village of Narsaq. That village is located at the end of Tunulliarfik Fjord. I contacted the museum and talked to the curator, another Dane named Jesper Enevoldsen, who supported my research. He sent me a photo of what appears to be a pillar basalt quarry from his village. The story was a grand theory, but I still did not have conclusive evidence that the archaeological community would accept.

After finding a promising location for the rock source, I started drilling down through the internet regarding basalt in that area. I eventually found research conducted by the University of Edinburgh: some spectrographic analyzes for mining purposes on the fjord. By comparing the two data sets, I could see that the list of mineral elements absolutely fit. What a relief!

The long and winding road that leads to your coast
Cover of Niels Vinding’s book

See the sacred ballast
It now seems so easy to understand that Erikson would have ballasted his boat in his home fjord. The boat would have been very light as they sailed from Greenland to Newfoundland without cargo, so it was necessary to add extra weight.

The important thing to know is that the square boulders, about three feet long, 12 inches high and 18 inches wide, were apparently then used as foundation blocks in the temporary turf houses they built in Vinland – turf houses in Iceland have a foundation of similar columnar basalt blocks, which is essential for moisture drainage.

As a matter of interest, one of the ballast blocks can still be seen in situ in what appears to be a turf house foundation in Newfoundland. Specialists at Roskilde Ship Museum, whom I contacted, were very skeptical about this type of significant square ballast. Other sailors have told me that you use what is available at the place you are traveling from. The matching of the rocks answers this argument.

Fake seeds, or maybe berries
Another important part of this ‘saga’ to consider is the name Vinland – the land of grapes. Historians for centuries have argued that Vinland cannot be in Newfoundland because grapes do not grow there and never did.

It seemed like no one had ever questioned the accuracy of Erikson’s statement that he found grapes! Was it a deliberate attempt to advance his discovery of the wonderful island, or a real mistake. The Greenlanders had never seen grapes grow, so you can well understand the mistake.

And of course, the resemblance between wild grapes and blueberries is easy to see. They still make excellent blueberry wine in Newfoundland.

The long and winding road that leads to your coast

On the verge of greatness
Now that I have absolute scientific evidence that the stones came from Greenland, a comprehensive archaeological study will most likely show a turf house ruin that still exists on Bellevue Beach. Once established, it will be easy to connect it with Erikson and we can say that we have actually found Vinland!

As a contemporary footnote to this discovery, the spectrographic analysis of the ballast rock indicates that they are full of rare earth minerals. Thus, my curiosity about some controversial Viking runic inscriptions has bridged a gap between a historical 1000-year-old myth with contemporary geopolitical ambitions, as China claims Erick the Red and Leif Erikson’s homeland for mining purposes.

I only wish Niels Vinding had lived long enough to see his work proven.

Source: The Nordic Page




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